ATHENS — This is getting to be old hat for Georgia’s Chris Conley.
Conley, a sophomore wide receiver from Paulding County, has emerged as the chief replacement for injured starter Marlon Brown. Brown, a senior and the Bulldogs’ co-leader with 27 receptions, was lost for the season to a knee injury against Ole Miss this past Saturday.
In Georgia’s base offensive set, the Bulldogs will go with senior Tavarres King and sophomore Malcolm Mitchell at their two wideout positions. But when they go to three wides – and Georgia has done that quite often this season – it’s the talented and capable Conley who will step into Brown’s all important slot position.
Georgia’s coaches made that determination this week and, really, well before that.
“Conley was starting to play a little Y, the slot receiver, for us when Michael (Bennett) went down,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s still primarily a flanker, but he’s going to get the majority of the reps in that slot. Justin Scott-Wesley and (Taylor) Bradberry will be in that role as well.”
But be clear: Conley is the player the Bulldogs will be counting on. He has stepped up in such scenarios before.
Last season, Georgia ripped the redshirt off Conley midway through the year after Rantavious Wooten (concussion) and Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) went down for extended periods with injuries. He caught a huge first-down pass in a win over Florida, had 5 catches for 126 yards against New Mexico State and finished with 288 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions.
Conley’s role has been limited most of this season. He has caught at least one pass in all but three games and has seven overall for 84 yards and one score.
“I try not to look at it as how many balls I’m catching or how many routes I’m running,” Conley said. “I just want to help the team out, really and honestly. As long as we’re winning I’m happy. I just try to do my job and know my time will come. That’s really easy for me.”
The one thing Conley can’t do is make himself bigger. Brown (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and Bennett (6-4, 220) were big, physical receivers. Conley (6-3, 202) is more slender and known more for his speed and smooth moves.
“I’m a long guy,” Conley said. “I like to think of myself as being able to stretch the field… . I think I bring a little bit different perspective to the slot position. I think I’ll be able to work in a couple of moves in that they couldn’t. But they’re a couple of talented guys and I have to learn from them as well.
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: “He’s got some pretty good physicality about him. He doesn’t mind mixing it up and blocking a little. We think he’ll do well.”
Conley certainly has his team’s confidence.
“He’s going to do fine because he’s a conscientious guy who works hard,” Bobo said. “When his number has been called, he has answered and made plays.”
Burnette will not start
Right guard Chris Burnette did not practice for a third consecutive day Wednesday and will not start Saturday’s game against Auburn. The junior from LaGrange had started 19 games in a row and 22 overall before he had to leave the first half of the Ole Miss game with a left shoulder injury.
Richt said Burnett likely will travel with the team to Auburn and dress out for the game. But that’s still being determined.
“He possibly could be ready (to play), we just don’t know,” Richt said.
If Richt has hip-replacement surgery, it likely won’t be until after national signing day.
“That would be the earliest possible time,” Richt said Wednesday. “That would give me enough time to recover to be able to do the things I need to do. I’d have to move around a couple of things. I could wait until after spring ball, but there’s a lot of Bulldog Club there and some other obligations… . But I really don’t want to go too deep into the summer.”
Richt revealed this week that a 20-year-old hip injury has left him in excruciating pain, especially after games.
Richt said the coaches were not considering using freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons as a slot receiver but added, “I wish I had thought about it on Sunday.” … . Junior outside linebacker Chase Vasser (left shoulder) did not practice again Wednesday and likely won’t travel this weekend… .Georgia practiced for two hours Wednesday in shorts and shoulder pads on its field turf fields. “It was great,” Richt said. “It was cool but the wind wasn’t blowing and our field can handle the water without a problem. It was actually an excellent day to practice.”